The Summer of Valiant officially starts right here, and let me tell you that I have been waiting for this for quite some time. Everything has been leading up to this. The announcement that Valiant had officially returned, unveiling their FCBD issue, and talking about the release of not only this issue, but also Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer and Armstrong. It’s caused quite a stir in the comics community and quite frankly, built up quite a bit of hype. Can it deliver though?
With the sneak peeks at pencils, 6 page previews, interviews, and so much more, can X-O Manowar bring forth the awesomeness that is required to help propel Valiant back into the hearts and minds of comic fans once again? Let’s take a look and find out, shall we?
The year is 402 A.D. and the Visigoths and Romans are at war. The Romans have attacked on Easter, a holy day for the Christian based Visigoths. The battle is immense. The Visigoths are clumped together in small groups, with wooden shields and short swords to protect themselves, while the Romans have tight formations, metal armor and full body shields, along with heavy artillery. The battle easily turns for the worse as Visigoth warriors die left and right from Ballista and Onager fire. King Alaric, Aric’s uncle, calls for the retreat. Aric, being just under 30 years of age, says no, and single-handedly boosts the morale of his fellow soldiers to take the Romans head on. As the Visigoths charge, they take the Romans by surprise with such an aggressive rush, but it only lasts so long. The Romans soon recover and Visigoths start to fall. It’s not long before Aric’s own father falls to a Roman blade. A retreat is called for again, and this time, Aric agrees.
What a great way to start this issue. I’m going to try real hard not to do comparisons with the original, but it almost calls for it. As you turn the pages of X-O #1, you really get a scope for just how massive the battle is that Aric and his fellow men fight. It’s intense, fast paced, and bloody. Robert Venditti does an amazing job of making you feel like you’re right there with them, dodging swords and spears.It’s amazing. As I read through the issue, it almost felt like watching a movie. Venditti’s writing is very fluid, and he took extra time and effort to really flesh out an Aric before he even looks at the X-O armor. He feels like a person all his own and not just some hapless barbarian. The emotion in the plot is rich and the action is written in such a way as to feel the movement. It’s not without it’s faults though. Aric’s wife is only mentioned here, and we never get to see any side of that. With so much being put into this first issue, I can see how some things had to be cut or trimmed down. Hopefully we’ll get a little more of Aric’s past fleshed out as the series continues. Aside from minor details, Robert Venditti wrote one of the best comics I’ve read in quite a while.
With Cary Nord’s artwork, it is a breath of fresh air. Whereas Valiant was known in the past for having a “stiff” style, that is not the case here. Cary is very modern in his pencils. Facial expression is very prominent here, and that makes it such a joy to look at. You can see Aric get down right irritated in parts, or be very firm and hard set in his decision. It’s amazing to look at. With that being said, Nord’s artwork also has a slight quick finish feel to it, almost sketchy. It gives X-O an edgy appearance, that’s for sure, but it just feels like some of the definition and detail was skimped on just a bit. In a battle with the Romans though, edge is needed, and visually, it’s there. When Aric’s father is run though, the next panel shows that anger and aggravation as Aric swipes a Roman’s head clean off. The way Cary made that look was striking.
When we here at SMC got the email for the advance release of this issue, I was ecstatic. A little bit of fear crept my way too. Once I turned that first page on my Kindle Fire, I was in it, good or bad. My mental fingers were crossed. This had to be good. It had to be! If it wasn’t, Valiant would fall before it even had a chance to get a running start. As I went from page to page, I found myself immersed in a world filled with swords, honor, blood, and confusion. As Aric first laid eyes on the alien ships outside his camp, I too was as confused as he was. As the issue moved further and further, and Aric took sight of the X-O armor for the first time, I was as in awe as he was. I think I even did an mental fist pump. As the issue came to a finish, I was excited. I can’t wait for the next issue to come out.
Aric’s journey to get the armor no longer can be told in half of an issue, but now in a multi-issue story arc. Perfect. It needs to be epic. It needs to be a struggle and not just something stumbled upon. With Robert Venditti and Cary Nord re-creating the world of X-O Manowar, you can count on me being there for every issue. This was amazing, epic, intense, and powerful. This is going to be one of the most talked about issues of the year… you can count on that.
Parental concern: Mild violence
X-O Manowar hits shelves on Wednesday, May 2nd.